Thursday, 2 April 2015

“Khadija is my role model."

Throughout the Muslim world commemorating the death of Khaddija bint Khwalid is a day of reflection marked by recalling her greatness. She was the first wife of Mohammad, the first woman to convert to Islam and regarded by Muslims as ‘the mother of the believers i.e. Muslims.’

In the annals of history it is recorded that she was a wealthy woman who also belonged to the respected tribe of Quraysh. Khadija had been previously married three times and had older children when she met Muhammad, whom she hired to travel to Syria with one of her trade caravans, when he was twenty-five.  Upon returning her servant gave accounts of the honourable way that Muhammad had conducted his business and brought back twice as much profit than expected. Khadija entrusted a friend to approach Muhammad and ask if he would consider marrying. At first he was hesitant because he had no money to support a wife. The friend then asked if he would consider marriage to a woman who had the means to provide for herself. Muhammad agreed to meet with Khadija. After this meeting the marriage took place.

No doubt Khadija was a woman of remarkable intelligence. Her mature understanding of worldly affairs made her astute and wise. She saw in Muhammad a man willing to aid and abet anyone who gave the opportunity to prove himself worthy of accomplishing honest dealings and transactions in trade and commerce. We learn that her maturity was equalled by her consideration because of the support she offered to Muhammad’s prophetic mission. Khadija’s generosity left a lasting impression on Muhammad who grieved for a long time after her death. Because of the affection he maintained for Khadija, his wife Ayesha remained jealous of her.

Much that can be praised about Khadija, however it fails to make sense that so many young Muslim girls prefer her to be a role model. Khadija’s rare qualities made her a perfect companion for a man who was destined to become a prophet. She narrated dreams which led to the interpretations that she was to marry a prophet which tells us that she was bestowed with a strong spiritual awareness as well. Some of us are born naturally gifted and talented; however a gifted person’s rare attributes hardly assist others to better themselves.
It is narrated that Muhammad said there are four foremost ladies of the universe, Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, his daughter Fatimah bint Muhammad, Maryam bint Imran, the mother of Prophet Issa and Asia bin Muzahim (the wife of the Pharoah.) Despite my best efforts I can never succeed to be like any of these women because I don’t possess their attributes, skills or place and position in society. However I can try my best to live by accomplishing some good in the face of adversities like Helen Keller, I can hope to learn from the legacy of Marie Curie whose discoveries benefits all of us, I can try and overcome my fears of altitudes and severe weather conditions like Junko Tabei and aim to reach the summit of Mount Everest.
Blind veneration of Khadija, Ayesha and Fatima strikes to be an attitude which only highlights Muhammad’s status in Islam. Surely young Muslim girls can do better than worship for the sake of upholding Islam’s status.    

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

"You sound like an atheist."

Recently I have been receiving direct messages on twitter from some followers in regard to my rant on Islam. These ‘meant-well’ messages are directed at concerns that certain twitter accounts are being offensive about the content of my tweets. Some have also probed to question my religious standing and have gone on to believe that my recent tweets suggest I am now an atheist.

IT seems my ‘meant-well’ followers were compelled to direct their concern towards my religious standing because of the distraction I have caused through my tweets. I have outspokenly criticised Islam’s concept validating modesty and morality of women, challenged perceptions that Islam is compatible with British values and remained highly critical of the ideals to uphold the sanctity of Quran. All this has caused confusion on twitter. One follower sort of celebrated the thought that I have finally turned into an atheist and made an offer which sounded like ‘once in a lifetime chance’ of a relationship behind the marriage scene. Though it is fair assumption to make any sort of judgement from reading the tweets, I will have to explain my point of view, because the content of tweets is causing few of you to ask questions about my religious belief. But please bear in mind, this kind of explanation is something I choose not to do, simply because it is very difficult to explain religious standing without sounding presumptuous and I would refrain from becoming another Mehdi Hasan who once pointed out that I possessed very shoddy knowledge of Kerbala and hence rubbished me off for sounding too irrational on the topic of Islam.

Those who know me are not going to judge my approach to be overly religious in day-to-day matters. For as long as I remember I have always rebelled against the notion that secular values make you an immoral person. I grew up in a family where art was appreciated and admired and this never conflicted with the view that life is amoral if you draw human images. Any opinion resting on the notion that there is perversion in admiring women like Venus and Mona Lisa got me into fights in school. I still continue to view Islam as an elusive and intangible influence-----like a vague shadow in the background. My life is too busy, chaotic and demanding and I have little time to spare to dissect the reasons why Muhammad made it compulsory to live in an interest-free society or worry about the doomed after-death existence for not praying five times a day. I have lived under the shadow of Islam but I have also questioned, criticized and sometimes outwardly rebelled against Islamic ideas. But where I lack the will to emulate the Sunnah I also have no enthusiasm to formerly declare myself an atheist; simply because getting lost in a debate on faith and inner conviction is a distraction from serious issues.

The ones who believe Quran to be the final word of God are keen to promote the viewpoint that the teachings of Islam provide complete guidance in forming a society where everyone is given equal rights. But the voices disagreeing are putting up a fight. Although it is a credit that some on twitter compare me with Ayaan Hirsi Ali and  Tarek Fateh I am not as brave and courageous as them. These individuals have decided to no longer defend Islam and Sharia and they are challenging Islam and the Muslims who do not stand by free-speech and freedom of expression. It is hard, unforgivable and never-ending battle to oppose Islam, as I found out ever since I escalated my own criticism of Islam. I have been called an apostate and a non-believer, which I can live with because I have seen what criticism of Islam leads to after judging the barometer of hate Maajid Nawaz receive on twitter. However it rankle me that some devout Muslims claim I sound like a Jew or a Hindu, as if it is very heinously offensive matter to be a follower of either of these faiths.

Why does the level of tolerance slips away when Islam is challenged? Maybe because for too long Muslims have learned to tolerate the religious zealots who claim that sound judgement is a matter of absolute submission before Quran and Sunnah and anyone who disagrees can't be a Muslim. For me it is no longer a matter of choice to agree with principles and practices which are archaic, unjust and not sound in safeguarding freedom and human dignity. I will continue to criticize, condemn and highlight the issues within Islam because Sharia is no longer an answer to a better tomorrow for all those individuals who believe in living together without creating divisions resting on religion.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

IS it right to allow young girls to wear Hijab

Prophet Muhammed was a saviour of humanity who uplifted the status of women. Those who believe unequivocally in the compassion of Mohammad and his fair-mindedness will remind you he put an end to the Arab custom of burying female infants alive and made it known that whosoever has two daughters and struggles for their upbringing will be positioned to stand close to him on the day of judgement. How comforting to know that Muhammed gave a lasting legacy to Muslims on how they should treat young girls!

In a recent wedding I attended in Manchester, I saw a father sitting with four young daughters between the ages of four and ten and all wearing hijabs. Frequently I get to see facebook messages where little girls appear covered in hijabs and invariably a haadith is quoted as to the virtue of teaching about Islam to young minds. Sometimes the person who post the message ask you to share it to receive as many likes as possible. The message of these posts is clear: young minds are to be nurtured through religion and little girls must be taught that hijab gives her protection from the male gaze. In order to make it known why hijab is a necessity it has to be explained why segregation is allowed in Islam. Surely the content of the topic cannot be legitimized without touching on the topics which relate to sexual education.

By introducing concept of hijab on girls as young as six years are you not robbing them of their innocence? If hijab is to give protection to girls, then how come the rapes cases among young girls are not rarity in Muslim countries? In Britain and elsewhere in Europe the justification that Islam is essential for the freedom of Muslims is gaining strength. By turning the angle of the argument in favour of controlling girls and women, Islam will remain dominant. And my recent tweet highlighting the debate that young school girls under the age of ten should not be allowed to wear hijab proved so. The abuse I received was shocking not for its vile content but the obvious blind faith in believing hijab protects little girls. 

Let little girls explore, discover and enjoy the freedom of playing and doing whatever young boys do. Religion is restricting their freedom. Allow little boys and little girls to nourish their minds by forming friendships, playing in groups and sharing thoughts and ideas.

Hopefully parents, the media, community and social workers agree they have a duty to protect the freedom of young Muslim girls in Britain from the restrictions religion impose upon them. 

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

What is wrong with Eric Pickles’ letter!

The language of Eric Pickle’s letter is predictable and stating the obvious: ‘But there is more work to do,’ ‘show them these men of hate have no place in our mosques or any place of worship,’ ‘We know act of extremism are not representative of Islam.’ Too often these phrases are repeated when statesmen, commentators and writers fail to understand why Islamism exists.

But the letter pricks and creates a sense of snub. Many including Baroness Warsi is angered that the Muslim Council of Britain and other well-known groups representing British Muslims are not invited to have meetings with the Prime Minister. They feel slighted and angered because despite installing security cameras inside the mosques and committee members having to routinely meet the local police, Eric Pickles is acting like a man kicking up a storm in self-defence against his own shortcoming to understand that the victims of Islamphobia cant be asked to do more to counter extremism. And out of his own admittance he acknowledges that the Muslims came out in support of Charlie Hebdo cartoons around Britain.

Before we surrender to the drone of condemnation it is crucial to note that Eric Pickles wants the mosques to promote ‘British Islam,’ which is no different from ‘British values.’ My efforts to Google the word ‘British Islam’ fail to produce any definition, so Pickles must be accredited for inventing it. For the faint-hearted Ummah loving Muslims the coinage of the phrase would be seen as another attempt to contaminate the pure soul of Islam, for the much robust and Sharia-loving die-hard fanatics boiling with rage about the injustice of having to live amidst the critics of Quran and Mohammad and lamenting that Islam is given a cult-like status which supports violence, it is viewed as an attempt to harass them. But if ‘British Islam’ is anything close to resembling ‘British values’ then secularism has been broadly applied to convince Muslims that they must reform their traditional beliefs in order to be seen as not opposing secular values.

The oft-repeated garble that ‘Islam is a religion that cannot be forced against the will’ is not going to work in defence of Muslims when analysing the data on Forced Marriages by Home Office where it is reported that 42 percent of forced marriages cases involve Pakistani girls and in cases from 60 different countries majority are from Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Morocco. In a secular country the right to chose to marry or refuse to marry someone is denied to many Muslim girls.

If a Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate receives death threats after posting a cartoon image then the compromise with religious beliefs and freedom of speech is becoming a lethal weapon to suit the purpose of extremists. It was not a cleric from a far away Muslim land who charged Maajid Nawaz with blasphemy, a British Muslim commentator Mo Ansar, who is at ease debating Islam on social media with views that are objectionable on amputation, gays and women’s rights encouraged this kind of lunatic stance on images of prophet. The incidence brings to the table discussion whether Muslims are able to strike a balance to convince that religion is not going to permeate in the fabric of British society and challenge the freedom of expression.

Reinterpretation of Islam to suit the purpose has to end.    

Friday, 23 January 2015

Mohammad for Mankind – what about Muslim war with the Jews

For many Muslims the well-known facts about Mohammad pertain to his status as the saviour of humanity; his impeccable behaviour quintessentially remains unquestionable. Such praise absolves any need for character analysis and we are expected to believe in the perfection of Mohammad in every aspect.

One of the qualities of Mohammad, which makes him an example to follow, is his mercy----displayed by acts of forgiveness towards his enemies and the haters of Islam. But the simple truth of the matter is that when Mohammad arrived in Madina in AD 622, a sizable Jewish community thrived there and when he died in AD 632 very few Jews remained due to expulsion, death and enslavement. Many Muslims will argue that Mohammad’s state of perfection allowed him to punish the Jews who broke treaties and schemed with the tribes opposed to him----even tried to kill him. But the essence of forgiveness was not granted to the Jews and the hostility against them is promoted and supported in every Muslim country to this day.

The glossed over facts about the reasons for hatred towards the Jews are defended by many Muslim theologians only because they vilified the Prophet in Madina and denied the truth about his prophethood as mentioned in Quran. Some even argue that the enslavement, punishment and retaliations against the Jews were simply acts of following Arab custom, which allowed enslavement or death in dealing with the enemies. However, granted that everyone is part and parcel of his or her own culture, why a prophet imbued with divine inspiration from Allah did not rise above these violent tribal customs.

Mohammad was a man besieged by challenges of his time. He made decisions which went against some people and pleased others. The reasons behind those decisions are open to speculations, analysis and debate. Because the enmity against the Jews is very ancient and since most Muslims believe in following Mohammad literally it is crucial to know the facts behind the hostility.

Below is an analysis of the events leading to the old hostility between the Muslims and the Jews:

The earliest Islam was an improvement on the prior faith, Judaism.

At the time Mohammad entered Madina, three major Jewish clans lived there: Qaynuqa, Nadir and Qurayz. Mohammad worked on an agreement with them that all the Jews were not to support an enemy against him and ‘they were to be neither for him nor against him,’ in other words be neutral. In April 624, Muhammad expelled the clan Qaynuqa. One day a Muslim woman was conducting business in a Jewish market, and some Jews fastened her skirt to a nail. When she stood up, she was exposed. A Muslim happened to be present and witnessed the practical joke and the ridicule, killed one of the pranksters, who avenged their friend’s death in turn. The prank is found in Islamic sources which was the reason behind the expulsion of Qaynuqa clan. However it is arguable that this prank has no more than anecdotal value. But this incident is reason enough to inspire bin Laden to bear a grudge against the Jews. Many historians believe that Jews had assumed a contentious attitude towards Muhammad and that might have led to their expulsion. Was Mohammad’s response to the conflict proportional? To many it seems not because Qaynuqa never waged war on Mohammad. It comes not as a surprise that millions of Muslims hate the Jews and if Mohammad is perceived as their guide many believe that the enmity will not be wiped out.

When Mohammad expelled the Nadir clan the revelation in the Quran which permits Muhammad to cut down the date palms owned by the Jews is complicated to understand, because law and custom forbade this practice in war or at any time, but Allah gave the prophet special permission to break this rule. Mohammad expelled the entire tribe because they supposedly tried to kill him. Many see this response not propionate and think that it leads to the perceived aggression of radical followers.

In March 627, after the Battle of Trench, Mohammad imposed the ultimate penalty on the men of Jewish clan of Qurayza. The sentence was death by decapitation for around 600 men and enslavement for the women and children. Muslim defence of the carrying out of this sentence is that the Jews broke their agreement to remain neutral in the battle. However it is argued that Mohammad could have executed only a few leaders or the few guilty ones. He did not have to wipe the entire Jewish tribe by execution and enslavement.

During the caliphate of Umar the Jews were expelled from the Arabian peninsula. Umar citing the prophet’s words spoken on his deathbed: ‘Two religions shall not remain together in the peninsula of the Arabs,’ and considered it reason enough to justify his actions. This incident show that irrational excess seeped into Islam in the very beginning.

The Hadith passages saying that in the Last Day a tree or a stone will cry out that a Jew is hiding behind it, so Muslims must come and kill him, leads to the assumption for many Muslims that a Jew is behind every bad event, including 9/11. Plain reading of the Quran inspires many fanatic preachers

It is crucial for Muslims to ask, if Mohammad’s life and policies serve as role model of peace and divine love, why the hostilities towards the Jews continue to exist after fourteen hundred years? Can traditional and conservative Muslims reform, when they prefer to follow literally Quran and Haadith?

Saturday, 17 January 2015

We are better because we are Muslims!

How do you respond to a criticism that questions your own values? The most likely response would be to answer in a sensible manner that would lead to some conclusions. But if the preferred response is to be defensive it can only create a state of confrontation which will further leave the naysayer adrift. A month ago I had a conversation with a lady whose own perception of how the Asian Muslims in Birmingham have learned to adapt with the British way of life far exceeds my insight. But it was her response to the ongoing issues linked to Islamism which spelled out the underlying problem. Boldly she summed it up in a single sentence how one is to tackle the criticism that Muslims are not doing enough to integrate, ‘They can’t stop usthey are scared of us.’ The word ‘they’ refers to the media, the police, the government and politicians, anyone who believes that apologetic pacifism is not the way to tackle Islamism.

Racism is now commonly confused with Islamism. If the argument highlights that the Muslim community needs to tackle the issue of faith because significance of upholding Islamism precedes the essential values of human rights, freedom of speech and gender equality then it is ‘us verses them,’ situation which either needs to be ignored or demands a defensive stance. The first generation of immigrants who arrived from Pakistan have experiences to narrate about how life was difficult in those days. It was matter of earning to save enough money and probably one day return home. Ties with the native homeland, and clan were maintained and strengthened to make the children realize that their ethnic background is an important factor of identity. Islamic teachings maintaining strong family bonds and upholding conservative traditional values leading to segregation and subservient attitude of women were useful in instilling to the children their cultural identity.

I disagree with the Fox News guest’s statement that Birmingham’s multi-cultural vibrancy has made the city a no-go area for non-Muslims. The city is vibrant and welcoming. But where diversity is good it is also going to bring new challenges. Overly-populated Muslim neighbourhoods are going to come across issues because by and large Islam has been adopted as a way of life. Made to believe by their parents that somehow Islam is going to give them sense of belonging and protection, the children of the first generation immigrants are now defensively pursuing to adopt way of life which upholds Islamic character. I will be told this perception is flawed because many second generation Muslims are educated, pursuing careers, have plans to settle down as good and decent citizens. While it can’t be agreed that all Muslims are pursuing the Jihadist dream to live under the green banner of Islam in Europe, there is something essentially not right if every criticism is countered with the rallying cry of racism. While British Muslims prosper economically and benefit from the freedom to profess Islam as a religion, the disregard to understand the threat of Islamism which also undermines the British values is twisted and gross misrepresentation of being enlightened. If it is war front to fight any insult against Islam but at the same time preached that in Europe one is surrounded by Kufr-yielding Europeans who know nothing of Islam then it is only leading to self-destruction.

Time to stop saying ‘We are better because we are Muslims.’  

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Is Islam political-religious threat!

One of my uncles had a rare gift of spinning stories out of hypothesis, controversies and predictions. His purpose was to acquaint others with world affairs and history in a light manner. Islam was always a favourite topic and whether it was politics, conspiracies or Islamism he tried to reason out the complications as best as he could do it. Once in a matter-of-fact way he mentioned to me the comments Francis Mitterand made in reference to Muslims, where he stated that the rising tide of Islam in Europe can lead to a situation making it possible for a Muslim to be elected as the French president.

Thirty years ago this seemed a strange prediction. Far from being interested in politics that could lead to crisis between Islam and West I did not take these comments seriously. But nowadays it is not easy to overlook that identification with Islam is creating conflicts. We hear of Sharia patrols in UK, anti-Islam protest march in Germany, riots in Europe, blasphemy charges raised against those who draw cartoons and drawings becoming a frequent occurrence. It is usually dismissed that these incidences are engineered by those who want to stir trouble, brand Islam as intolerant and not compatible with the times.  

Whether my uncle said these comments in response to the argument that Islam is a violent religion spread by the use of sword in medieval times I am not sure. He died soon after 9/11 and never got the chance to see the turn of tide where the blind conviction in Quran and Haadith as the perfect embodiment of law, led to the birth of Islamic State ISIS who believe in modern-day slavery, beheading and amputations. Islam is seen as a force which has foes and believers alike. Whether as an outcome of economic meltdown, lack of trust in politicians or suffering from affluenza (‘a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more’), all over the world the young people are turning to religion. Islam as a role model is growing, for it offers the closest example to ‘living religion’ whose adherents really believe in God and his Law. The influence of Islam is everywhere.
Hijab-clad woman greets me at the chemist, I read the word ‘halal’ emblazoned on the sign boards of many restaurants across Birmingham, I walk pass prayer-rooms in airports and hospitals and I get to listen to Adhan ‘call for prayers’ on radio.

However I fail to adhere to becoming a follower without understanding why those who believe in tolerance are ready to harass others for drawing images of the Prophet! Those who believe in Islam have a desire to see it dominate by the increase in numbers of converts. Though it is deemed that all are equal before God, yet it is constantly preached that Christians, Jews, Atheists, Hindus are less equals because they don’t follow Islam. In this day and age women are told that segregation is a way of giving them respect. Forced marriages, honour killings and violence to compel girls to cover their heads and faces is sometimes not even considered violation of basic rights for women.

 Much of the sovereignty of the European states is being transferred to the European Union: radical Muslims may wonder why they should come to terms with the national governments rather than the supranational authority in Brussels. Politics may accelerate Islamization. Muslim vote will be crucial in many elections across Europe; to win it may mean having to woo it, notably by allowing for further consolidation of Islam in society. Along these lines, one might also wonder whether Jacques Chirac’s pronouncements in late 1996 strongly favouring an independent Palestinian state and the lifting of the embargo against Iraq were not intended to garner the Muslim vote in France. One may also question why the British government never tried to intervene to stop genocide by Assad government in Syria.

Anyone who believes in the existence of specific political-religious threat will probably think of Islam first. The current debate about immigration is much more than only about ethnicity and language----it is about religion too. We must consider whether the rise of Islam means number of mosques should double, halal food distribution must boost, polygamy is to be tolerated and the Sharia police to be allowed to operate in Muslim neighbourhoods. Or Islam ought to adapt to the British values, with its emphasis on individual freedom and secularism, rather than the reverse.